A reminder that you don’t need to tackle tough times alone.
“I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” -Og Mandino
We quickly judge others on the answers they provide.
We vote for politicians because of the answers they give during debates, the zingers they fire at their opponents and the pithy posts they make on social media. We follow thought leaders because of the brilliant answers they provide to the questions we have. And organizationally, we assign the title of leader to those who have all the answers.
And yet, a more nuanced and beneficial approach shouldn’t be simply in judging the answers they give, but instead the questions they ask. People often reveal themselves in the humility of the questions they ask or the unwillingness to ask them in the first place. An encounter with a young man reminded me of this truth.
My favorite aspect of speaking with audiences is always the opportunity to visit individually afterwards. A community event provided such a chance with more than 800 gathered and many of them sticking around at the conclusion to have books signed and personal stories shared. Throughout the book signing, though, I noticed a young man waiting off to the side.
As the room emptied, he eventually approached and asked if we could talk for a moment.
We walked from the atrium where others still lingered to a quiet area and sat down in the theater.
He told me how moved he was during the presentation. He shared that he was new to the area and struggling in school. High school was hard and making friends wasn’t easy. His eyes watered as he spoke.
Then he asked a telling question: “John, were there ever days when you regretted living through the fire; or days after when you wondered if you’d be better off dead?”
I told him honestly that there were many difficult days that I struggled mightily. Five long months in the hospital, losing my fingers to amputation, lots of difficulties in school, challenges in dating and struggles professionally. Even today, as good as life is, many days are hard.
I shared that although I wouldn’t have chosen any of the challenges, looking back on them it’s so clear to me now that through them my character was forged, my faith was tested and a drive to live fully was stoked.
I asked him about what he’s going through.
We discussed his family, his struggles, his school and his life. It was an honest, painful and beautifully open conversation. We exchanged information to stay connected and at the end, as we got ready to step back into crowds and life, I asked what he was thinking now.
He took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, then back at me, before responding, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I want to live.”
The young man then committed to talking to his school counselor, being honest with his family and even gave me permission to share the conversation with his principal.
The fight, in other words, was no longer just his. The despair of today was no longer greater than the hope for tomorrow. And the darkness no longer more powerful than the light.
My friend, we all go through dark times. The good news is that your life matters, the foundation remains firm, better days are ahead and you are not alone. These aren’t platitudes, but transformational truth.
You see, light is awesome. It shows us the way. It provides clarity.
And yet, it is in enduring the darkness that permits us to actually see the stars and more fully appreciate the light.
This is your day. Live Inspired.